Story of a Secret State by Jan Karski
My Report to the World

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Jan Karski’s Story of a Secret State stands as one of the most poignant and inspiring memoirs of World War II and the Holocaust. With elements of a spy thriller, documenting his experiences in the Polish Underground, and as one of the first accounts of the systematic slaughter of the Jews by the German Nazis, this volume is a remarkable testimony of one man’s courage and a nation’s struggle for resistance against overwhelming oppression.

Karski was a brilliant young diplomat when war broke out in 1939 with Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Taken prisoner by the Soviet Red Army, which had simultaneously invaded from the East, Karski narrowly escaped the subsequent Katyn Forest Massacre. He became a member of the Polish Underground, the most significant resistance movement in occupied Europe, acting as a liaison and courier between the Underground and the Polish government-in-exile. He was twice smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto, and entered the Nazi’s Izbica transit camp disguised as a guard, witnessing first-hand the horrors of the Holocaust.

Karski’s courage and testimony, conveyed in a breathtaking manner in Story of a Secret State, offer the narrative of one of the world’s greatest eyewitnesses and an inspiration for all of humanity, emboldening each of us to rise to the challenge of standing up against evil and for human rights. This definitive edition—which includes a foreword by Madeleine Albright, a biographical essay by Yale historian Timothy Snyder, an afterword by Zbigniew Brzezinski, previously unpublished photos, notes, further reading, and a glossary—is an apt legacy for this hero of conscience during the most fraught and fragile moment in modern history.

About Jan Karski

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Jan Karski was born in Lódz, Poland, in 1914. He received a degree in Law and Diplomatic Science in 1935 and served as a liaison officer of the Polish Underground during World War II. He carried the first eyewitness report of the Holocaust to a mostly unbelieving West, meeting with President Roosevelt in 1943 to plead for Allied intervention. Story of a Secret State was originally published in 1944, becoming a bestseller and Book of the Month Club selection. After the war, Karski earned his PhD at Georgetown University, where he served as a distinguished professor in the School of Foreign Service for forty years. He died in Washington, DC, in 2000. Karski has been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. In 2012, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
Published February 22, 2013 by Georgetown University Press. 464 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Travel, War. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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A member of the Polish resistance after Germany’s 1939 conquest, Karski (1914–2000) witnessed unspeakable Nazi behavior and the courageous response of his countrymen before traveling to Britain and the United States with the first news of the Holocaust.

Dec 26 2012 | Read Full Review of Story of a Secret State: My R...

The Guardian

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When Jan Karski first published his chronicle of Polish resistance to the Nazis in 1944, all he hoped for was to ensure that Churchill and Roosevelt did not forget oppressed Poland.

May 08 2011 | Read Full Review of Story of a Secret State: My R...

Publishers Weekly

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Only 25 in 1939, Karski recounts his work linking various aspects of the underground’s extensive administrative, political, and economic apparatuses, as well his capture and subsequent torture at the hands of the Gestapo (he likens being beaten by a rubber stick to “the sensation produced whe...

Jan 07 2013 | Read Full Review of Story of a Secret State: My R...

The Telegraph

When Germany and Russia invaded Poland in 1939, Karski barely escaped Stalin’s Katyn massacre of the Polish officer corps – the beginning of his remarkable wartime career in the Polish underground.

May 04 2011 | Read Full Review of Story of a Secret State: My R...


No historical event looms so large in our memory as the Holocaust, and Polish underground fighter Jan Karski was among the first to tell the Allies about the true horrors of the Nazi extermination of the Jews.

May 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Story of a Secret State: My R...


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- Jan Karski ... This book is a purely personal story, my story.' Jan Karski's 1944 ...

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